The Tennessee-Alabama game will determine a lot of things. Are the Vols ahead of the curve or just overhyped? Is Alabama the same old Crimson Tide or not quite up to Bama standards? However, there’s more on the line than that.
For some on Tennessee’s football team, Saturday’s game can define their careers. No matter what happens for the remainder of the season, beating Alabama for the first time since 2006 would be the penultimate moment of their football careers. Other than winning a championship this season, which Tennessee is probably not ready to do, there’s nothing more significant that the Vols could accomplish this season than beating Alabama, at least nothing more memorable.
The Tennessee-Alabama series began in 1901 and this is the highest combined ranking between the two teams in the history of the series. Let that sink in for a bit.
“That’s pretty crazy,” Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren said during the Vol Report. “That’s awesome. I mean, that’s big time. That’s dope. That’s what you want. That’s what you come to schools like this for.”
There’s a growing contention that Tennessee will actually beat Alabama on Saturday and that sentiment isn’t unique to Knoxville. National analysts have echoed the same opinion. Is Tennessee good enough to beat Alabama on Saturday?
“I do believe we’re that good,” Warren said. “I do believe that we can go in and we can beat anybody. Obviously, you have to execute. You can’t make many mistakes, right? They’re going to make mistakes, but as long as we can take care of the ball and we can play our offense and we can just play together, and everyone that’s on the field truly believes that we can beat anybody. I am fully convinced that we can.”
The chatter leading into Saturday’s game should only give the Vols more optimism. However, that chatter can also be distracting. A player can only hear so much about themselves before they either become overly confident via positive reviews or insecure via negative criticism.
“If you’re able to handle it, you can look at Twitter, you can look at all these reports or whatever,” Warren said. “You can look at the news people and whatever. You can look at all the predictions and, if you can handle it, you can look at it.”
If you’re not able to handle the hype?
“Then just stay off Twitter,” Warren said. “Stay off of ESPN, the SEC Network, because whether it’s them thinking that we’re going to come out and win or if they’re predicting that we’re still the same old Tennessee that’s going to lose.
“No matter what they say, it doesn’t matter because it’s not going to change anything that happens in the game. So I think all we can do is go in and just prepare the same way that we did this past week.”
That’s the goal for the Vols as they wrap up practice before the Alabama game, avoiding the hype. Easier said than done.